University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Further Education Policy and Context: The Relationship Between Curriculum Middle Managers' Leadership Practice and Quality Improvement

Dad, F. (2016) Further Education Policy and Context: The Relationship Between Curriculum Middle Managers' Leadership Practice and Quality Improvement. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

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This research contributes to a body of well established, albeit typically anecdotal, understanding across the UK further education sector that suggests there are significant limitations regarding the effectiveness of curriculum middle managers’ leadership practice.

If further education provision is to keep up with or exceed expectations from industry, government inspections and other stakeholders, then a deeper more evidence-based understanding of this pivotal role is needed. This includes an assessment of motivating factors that drive-up effectiveness in the role, as well as an exploration of the barriers faced in practice. Ultimately, the work presents initiatives, which aim to best release the full potential of those in this role. It can be argued that finding ways to unlock this potential is of national importance.

The impact of government intervention and financial constraints has created further impetus for FE colleges to increase efficiency and to reduce costs. Curriculum middle managers are both policy implementers and change makers and it is argued in this study that curriculum middle managers have the most difficult and challenging job within a further education college.

The success of the role of the curriculum middle manager and their leadership practice is therefore critical in a college’s ability to realise its two most important strategic outcomes. Firstly, that a college operates with financial efficacy, and secondly that ongoing quality improvement in teaching, learning and assessment results in high student success rates, which are recognised by external stakeholders such as Ofsted.

This research follows a constructivist research methodology framed within an interpretive hermeneutic. Focusing upon a detailed case study of a medium-size further education college, it utilises empirical data primarily derived from semi- structured interviews, documentary material and field observation of 14 curriculum middle managers. Particular attention is paid in the study to the key role of the curriculum middle manager in raising standards of teaching, learning and assessment to improve student success rates, whilst having to operate within an environment of increasing challenge and austerity.

The findings derived from the experiences of curriculum middle managers suggest that, i) curriculum middle managers are having to operate at a relentless pace to meet unrealistic expectations, ii) senior managers are operating a top- down communication strategy with very little consideration of the feedback from curriculum middle managers, iii) curriculum middle managers experience a lack of meaningful staff development training when appointed and no training needs analysis is undertaken to support newly appointed curriculum middle managers and, most importantly, iv) the wealth of teaching and learning knowledge, expertise and experience is very often not embraced by the senior managers when new strategies are devised to improve the student experience.

The findings suggest that senior managers have a significant role to play in supporting curriculum middle managers and ensuring that these individuals are fully valued and that their expertise is embedded within a culture of true consultation in order to energise and release the inherent potential within the role. Conclusions identify a range of practical considerations and examples for senior managers and further education leadership to consider in order to help address this phenomenon. The findings explore future implications for policy and practice within the further education sector, and for the related theoretical literature, along with suggestions for further research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the University's requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. A print copy of this thesis is held on Level 4 at the Hive.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: further education, further education policy, curriculum middle managers, leadership practice, quality improvement
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2361 Curriculum
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Education
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2018 08:46
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:21

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